In a recent article in the Sunday Times newspaper (23rd March 2014) entitled “Estate owners harness hydropower” Colin Coyle outlined how “Ireland’s rambling big houses are becoming energy self-efficient by harnessing the power of nearby rivers and streams“. Two examples are given in this article; Coolmore House, Co Kilkenny and Islandmore House, Co Limerick. The fisheries and aquatic ecological impact assessments, along with the Habitat Directive assessments, for both schemes featured in this article were completed by our team and we secured planning permission for both clients.

Both of these schemes received full planning permission based on our expert assessments and reporting. Our assessments included electrofishing surveys for salmonids and lampreys, aquatic macroinvetebrate surveys (including white-clawed crayfish surveys).  We designed a rock ramp fish pass for the Islandmore House scheme. We prepared hydrology assessments and designed compensation flows and fish screening measures for both sites. At Islandmore House we were also contracted after planning permission was received  to move white-clawed crayfish, Anadonta spp. freshwater mussels, Atlantic salmon, brown trout and brook lampreys out of the way of the construction works. We also prepared the construction phase surface water management plan (SWMP) for this site.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) have said that. although the set-up costs for a small hydro scheme can be “comparatively high“,  after the initial pay-back period the owner of the system has “free fuel” at relatively low operating costs.  According to the Sunday Times article Rodger Chubb, the estate manager at Coolmore, said that “the owners of this estate may even be able to sell electricity back to the national grid“.

As most of the potential large scale schemes in the UK and Ireland are completed, the future of hydroelectricity will focus on small scale schemes like those at Coolmore House and Islandmore House and also with refurbishing old watermills.  The Department of Energy and Climate Change has said that “recent studies estimate there is a remaining viable hydroelectric potential of 850-1550MW in the UK“.

FISHFACT are the leading independent experts in providing fisheries and aquatic ecology assessments, and Habitats Directive Assessments (where required), for small and micro hydropower schemes.  Dr. William O’Connor is our Senior Aquatic Ecology and Fisheries Specialist and he worked for most of the 1990′s for the Irish Electricity Supply Board where he worked on mitigation and fisheries projects in relation to large hydro schemes on the Rivers Shannon and other Irish hydro rivers. He has also worked on numerous small hydro schemes over the past fifteen years as an independent consultant.

Another recent project we were involved with is the Roe Valley Hydroelectric Scheme in Northern Ireland. On this project we were the lead fisheries and aquatic scientists. This project is being progressed by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and was designed to be an exemplary project for small hydro development in Northern Ireland. See our case studies page on small hydro schemes on this website.

Do you have an old mill or weir on your property that you would like to develop for hydropower? If you have a scheme that you would like to discuss with us please do not hesitate to contact us.

Dr. Will O’Connor is a Senior Ecologist who has over 25 year’s professional experience. He is a graduate of the University of Wales, Cardiff, and the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, and a full member of both the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and the Institute of Fisheries Management. He is a Chartered Environmentalist and a Chartered Biologist.

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